Ready, Set, Dash!-Using Sensory Paths to Build School Skills

Sensory paths are often found in the hallways of elementary schools and are used by kids to take a break and move their bodies. Kids follow visual directions made with tape, paper cut outs, and other materials that tell them how to move as they go along the path. Sensory paths are great for keeping kids busy. They also help build critical school skills like following directions, motor control, self-regulation, and even learning letters and numbers! You can create your own path at home for a fun gross motor activity with these easy steps.

 Use painter’s tape, simple cut outs, or chalk

Sensory paths can be short and simple or more complicated, depending on what you choose. You can make one outside and use chalk for everything or you can make one inside using painter’s tape and some paper cut outs.

  • Pick an area with a good amount of space. A hard floor surface may be easier for sticking cut outs to the ground with tape.
  • Use painter’s tape or chalk to create lines for children to balance on.
  • Create arrows with painter’s tape or chalk to show which direction to travel or jump in.
  • Use cut outs of feet and hands to add more action movements. You can place feet and hands to show crawling, leaping on all fours, jumping, jumping sideways or in different directions, jumping on one foot, etc.
  • If you place your sensory path near a wall, you can put hand cut outs on the wall and feet cut outs on the floor to direct kids to do wall push-ups.

Add words to the path

You can use words on the path to add more movement and make the path more creative!

  • Use action words such as jump, spin, crawl, hop, leap, run, skip, gallop, etc.
  • At points in the path you could use words to direct them to touch their toes, wiggle their fingers, touch their head, etc.
  • Use words to tell them to move like certain animals across a section of the path. For example, use foot-prints or paw-prints and the words “crawl like a bear”, make circles for them to jump in and write “hop like a bunny”, use lily pads and write “leap like a frog”, etc.

Example sensory path

Here is an example of a sensory path you can make at home. Use any of the ideas mentioned above to add to it or switch it up. You don’t have to use the shapes suggested, any shapes can work! For example, you could use circles instead of paw-prints, lily pads, or foot-prints.

  1. A section with foot-prints and the word “run”. Kids run until they get to the end of the foot-prints.
  2. Four circles or other shapes and the word “jump”. Kids will jump on each shape.
  3. A circle with the word “spin”. Kids spin in a circle a couple of times.
  4. Four lily pads and the word “leap”. Kids will leap like a frog to each lily pad.
  5. A line using painter’s tape, or chalk if outside, with the word “balance”. Kids will have to walk on the line balancing.
  6. Rows of paw prints with the words “bear crawl”. Kids will have to crawl on all fours like a bear for this section.
  7. Two foot-prints with the words “touch your toes”. Kids will put their feet on the foot prints and touch their toes.
  8. Stop sign showing the end of the path.

Use other props or make it an obstacle course

Make a longer activity out of the sensory path by turning it into an obstacle course. Use any of the ideas for sensory paths above and add some of the following ideas.

  • Add chairs or different furniture that kids have to zig zag around, crawl under, or crawl over.
  • Use a pool noodle as a balance beam. For an extra challenge, have them carry a round object on a spoon (like a small ball) and try to balance on the beam without dropping the object.
  • Use boxes to create tunnels to crawl through.
  • Make the obstacle course even more of a challenge by using a timer. Kids can take turns going through and timing each other to see who can make it through the fastest or see if they can beat their previous time.
  • In a hallway, tape paper streamers or string between the walls to create a maze (like cobwebs or security lasers). This creates a zig zag pattern that kids have to step/crawl over and under to get through without touching the streamers.
    • You can treat it like a laser maze and make it a rule you can’t touch the streamers or you have to start over.
    • Use a timer to see who can get through it the fastest or if you can beat your own time.
    • Once this gets easy, have kids try to pass a ball through without touching the streamers.

Have kids play an active role in setting up the activity for even more fun! Ask for their ideas about what movement to include and let them cut things out and arrange things as much as they can for their age. Have fun setting up the activity and moving through it!

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Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2020

Image: © Valerii Honcharuk |


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